"What do you want to do this year?" Mike asked me the day after I received the Fulbright decision two weeks ago. I didn't answer. "Maybe we can drive around the west and see some places out here," he continued.
God love him. I know he was trying to get my mind off of the fact that I wouldn't be teaching in Denmark this fall, but . . . Well, let me put it this way: Driving around the western United States is not on my radar for the fall, nor for anytime in the near (meaning next five-to-ten years) future.
"I intend to go to Italy this year," I finally almost whispered. He replied with his most practical argument as to why it might be a good idea that I wait another year or so. I wasn't buying. "I knew you were going to say that, but I worked myself to death so I could live there this year. I am going to do it while I can. I don't want to end up even angrier with myself for not doing it."
The truth of the matter is that I am quite angry with myself for waiting so long to do what I love. I let one stupid person's comment years ago stop me in my tracks, and I listened more to the negative voices than I did to the encouraging ones. I stayed on the mesa when I should have parachuted from the ridges. That is no one's fault but mine.
Please don't get me wrong. I don't regret being a wife and mother. I love being both, and I love my two guys. What I do hate is the fact that I did not do more during the time the three of us were growing. I did not take chances to write...chances to teach.... chances to get out of the cocoon I wove around me. What, I often silently scream at myself, have you done with your life? What? What?
I think a lot about my beloved grandmother these days. A mere girl of 21, she left the only life she knew and traveled to this strange land. She had $7 in her pocket. The black and white drudgery of her life – the illiteracy, the poverty, the backbreaking work, the abuse, the babies, the sacrifices – haunts me. I can’t imagine growing up without a mother, marrying a man I barely know, moving to a land where I cannot understand most of its people, learning a foreign language to survive, losing three young children yet raising eight more, and living 85 years and not being able to read or to write more than an “X” on a sheet of paper. The enormity, the courage, of what my grandmother did to give her children and grandchildren opportunities that she’d never realize, overwhelms me.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I don't know what Grams would want me to do, but I feel an obligation to repay her spirit. I think in doing so, I'm going to take care of myself, too.